Comanche & Indian Gap Railroad

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Santa Fe caboose 999187 at the Comanche & Indian Gap Railroad. Photo by Daris A Nevil, July 2015.

The Comanche & Indian Gap Railroad is a private track located near Comanche, Texas. It was built by Roy Pickard and family and friends.


From Brian, posted on

Roy and Marylin Pickard began this railroad way back in the late 70's - early 80's. It is the first point to point live steam railroad built and designed exclusively for operation, with dispatchers, radios, freight trains, and passenger trains running via timetable.
It takes a great amount of effort nearly year-round to maintain and then prepare the railroad for the runs in the spring and fall. The irregulars provide service from cutting brush, repairing and maintaining right of way and trackage, building and maintaining signals, and servicing and rebuilding rolling stock. We have folks that come from all over, and some of the gypsies have recently rebuilt one of the major steel bridges and a turntable.

From Tom, posted on

In the late 1970's Roy Pickard bought a ranch near Priddy, Tx. He went to Texas A&M to learn how to raise cows so that he could get a agricultural tax exemption on the land. His real purpose was to build a live steam railroad, the Comanche and Indian Gap. It would be spread over about 150 acres of rolling land, some heavily forested and other parts out in the open.
Roy and his son built about 80% of the railroad moving a lot of dirt and rocks to provide a right of way. Word spread about it and some came to see what he had done before it was finished. Some said he was crazy, others just thought he was a little nuts. But, in spite of that some started helping and the railroad main line was finished. It had to cross some creeks, one in particular called Cowhouse Creek which required a 120 ft bridge that ranged to a height of 10 ft over the Creek,and rise up some tough hills with plenty of curvature. Some parts such as the "raceway allowed you to "come out" on the throttle if only for a 150 yards, then it was back to curves and grades.
Roy wasn't just building a live steam track, he was building a railroad complete with many passing tracks and sidings for freight trains to work. It was to be operated as a real railroad, dispatched by radio controlling train movements and meets. Roy made use of concealment of the track in wooded areas. In some places you would be close to another part of he mainline of the railroad and not even know it when trees and bushes were leafed out. The track ran from 3 terminals, West Yard, Comanche Yard, and Indian Gap each with a turntable and water spouts. It had tower 17, a tall structure that seated the dispatcher and a CTC machine for the Zuni (Tower 17) tracks and wye. It was the nerve center of the railroad. Radios were early radio shack 5 channel radios with only 1/4 miles range and not really good at that.
Roy's wife has said she will keep the meets going as long as she lives. All maintenance is now done by a small group of men who come to the track about 4 weekends a year plus all those who come to meets work on track Monday-Wednesday, and then run the rest of he week. The tracks 31 year history has almost a complete turnover in those who now come to the meets. Many of the original group have passed away and others are so old now they just don't travel the long distances to get there anymore. Even I don't come but a couple of days now. Knees just can't do what they used to do. Father time can be a little cruel.

Terry McGrath wrote, 5 May 2014:

I attended the spring meet at the C&IG, rode the trains, walked the mainline, spent some time in the West Yard. I found concrete ties and new wood ties, expanded ballast work along portions of the main line and working signals. Trains had little trouble with derailments and I noticed a lot of retainer walls to keep mud from sliding onto the mainline during rains. While the railroad needs much more work, I have concluded that the C&IG is going to be around for many years to come. Peter is very enthusiastic about the future of the railroad, and has said the Pickard family is committed to keep operations going forward. If you are thinking of going to the C&IG's fall meet in October, right after the Terrell meet, consider taking your engine and some cars, as there will be even more work done on the railroad this summer.